Ten minutes in the pharmacy

That’s really all you need in order to find one example of a great new mark, and another of a really lousy one. While I’m still pondering the utility of Colgate’s new Wisp disposable toothbrush, as well as questioning the timing for introducing a completely non-green product on the market, I have to hand it to Colgate for choosing an outstanding trademark.  And now that I think about it, it’d be a great thing to have for airplane travel – assuming, however, that its “breath freshening bead” doesn’t raise the TSA’s hackles.  But the key here is that Wisp is just a great mark – catchy, brief, and non-descriptive.

Then it was over to the prescription counter.  Lucky me, the King Soopers pharmacy is revamping its computer system for managing prescriptions.  Yes, we can now fill prescriptions both on the web or by phone using the – wait for it – EASYFILL system.  Despite the term’s descriptiveness, the EASYFILL mark is even registered and is now incontestable.  I’ll grant you it’s not generic, but seriously, it’s mind-numbingly descriptive. Don’t get me wrong – I can’t come up with a better name for a system like that on my own, and I suspect there’s great value to the consumer in having a descriptive term like that, but I sure would have a hard time encouraging the owner to enforce that mark. But that’s why I’m here blogging and not litigating.

Signs of the end of trademark civilization, Vol. 1

The horror, the horror: Pending trademark applications for OCTOMOM.  Not only is it true, but someone beat Nadya Suleman to it and filed an application for OCTOMOM a month ago in classes 9, 28 and 41.  So expect a fun media battle with lots of misstatements about trademark rights, no doubt. 

The saddest thing?  Suleman’s class 41 application covers “Entertainment in the nature of on-going television programs in the field of varity [sic].” You say varity, I say variety – it’s still appalling.

H/t and eternal thanks to Nancy Friedman of Fritinancy

Not quite an Alt-0174, but really good

We’re almost finished building our wine cellar, and once we’ve loaded in the stash that’s now decorating our living room, there’s going to be a lot of racks to fill.  Not that we’re planning on going crazy, mind you, but we’re always looking for something new, particularly from Washington, whose wines we love.

So on a routine visit to Through the Walla Walla Grape Vine I just learned about a new winery: Thirsty Pagans , and its 2005 Communion label red wine.  I can’t quarrel with their stated premise: “We think wine IS food.”  There’s nothing I like more than irreverence, and their names and label have that down.  Bravo.


They’re not there yet, but I’ll bet these folks have an Alt-0174 up their sleeves somewhere!  Meanwhile, cheers!

Destination: Seattle

A whirlwind trip back to Seattle for a bar mitzvah enabled us to stroll and drive down memory lane, and see much-missed friends and family.  It also took us past a restaurant whose name I’ve long meant to report in this blog – yet another name that my girls love shouting at the top of their lungs.  It’s a Vietnamese restaurant, and the name is What the Pho?  I can’t vouch for its quality – our destination straight from the plane was Sushiland and its conveyor belt sushi – but the name is gold.  Reminds me of the name I’ve always hoped to see for a Thai restaurant: Nice Thai.  One day I’m sure someone will pick it up . . .

The bar mitzvah celebration was fantastic, and was held at the catering facility of Herban Feast.  While I normally love a name with a good spelling pun, this one kind of bothers me.  Perhaps its the vast spelling difference between “herb” and “urban”; perhaps it’s just that I am remembering what I think was the old Herbal Essence (that’s before Clairol made the name plural) that had a woman saying something like “That’s herbal, Herb” – but pronouncing Herb without the “h”.  You had to live through that 70s TV commercial humor, what can I say?  In any event, I solicit others’ thoughts on the Herban Feast name, while at the same time recommending it highly!

And here’s one where they might’ve gotten it wrong

Meet Welch’s new AquaJuice. 

Now I know – you’re trying to figure out what it is.  Lemme guess – water and juice?  Well, the Welch’s website calls AquaJuice a “great-tasting naturally lighter juice beverage for kids.” (Emphasis mine).  The Motley Fool’s CAPS blog investigates a bit further and finds out the truth: the label reveals that the product is 50% juice, 50% water.  Eureka!  That’d be aqua + juice, wouldn’t it?

I guess not, if you’re the PTO.  Who knew the prefix “aqua-” had lost its status as the foreign equivalent of water and become suggestive?  Interestingly, Welch’s entered this statement in the record: “The term “AQUA” has no
meaning or significance in relation to the goods apart from that of a
trademark.”  Really?  And yet the PTO bought it.  Oh well.

Sometimes the PTO does get it right!

PTO geek post alert!

One of the PTO’s most
exasperating grounds for refusal of registration is that the mark
sought to be registered is primarily merely a surname.  While for Smith
or Miller that may be fine, there are plenty of really obscure surnames
that the public really just doesn’t view as a surname.  (See this response to an initial refusal to register PUGET ENERGY on the ground that Puget is primarily merely a surname – it worked, by the way).

How delighted I was then to read David Lebovitz’s wonderful blog this morning: First, I learned about a new American chocolatier, Askinosie Chocolate
Then I started to wonder . . . I see the (R) registration notice, but
I’m wondering whether that’s a surname.  Sounds like “Ashkenazi,” the
word for Jews of Eastern European origin . . . wonder if the PTO had an
issue with that as a surname . . . Let’s check!

Well, I checked, and the PTO reflexively issued a surname refusal, but then backed off with little fuss
The applicant didn’t even have to argue the rareness of the name, which
suggests to me that the PTO had a pretty weak case; normally, even when
their database shows as few as 30-odd listings of a particular name
among millions, they’ll raise the refusal.

So bravo to all, and now it’s time to track down that chocolate!

Marketing a benefit that just doesn’t sound good

I posted this article on Twitter recently, but thought I’d address it in more depth as I am still reeling from the premise of toilet paper that touts itself as so strong that “1 feulle peut suffire” – one sheet will do.  Now, I am a fan of Lotus products – I love their small tissue packs, with handkerchief-sized tissues that are nice and thick for the serious nose-blower, and a sleeve of them is often one of my main purchases in Paris on a trip to Monoprix.  However, and without probing in detail the factual bases for their advertising claim regarding one sheet, I am giving a thumbs-down on this campaign.  Adding insult to injury is the fact that the name of the product all too explicitly conveys their marketing M.O.: Just 1. 

See?  Even thinking about it makes you not want to buy it.

H/t Why Travel to France

Retaliatory branding? Pourquoi pas?

If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em. A French vintner was frustrated with complaints that the wines of his region, Languedoc-Roussillon, were crap.  So he created “Le vin de merde” – shit or crap wine.  Apparently it’s not half bad, and that fly on the label adds that certain quelle heure est-il, non?

So the irony here is that the wine sold out almost immediately.  But I just love the connoisseurs in this video who taste the wine and pronounce it palatable.  Real French Joe Sixpacks.  And the slogan is nice too – “le pire . . . cache le meilleur” — the worst hides the best.  Hey, a votre santé!

Nothing new under the sun.

I’ve been meaning to post this for a while, so excuse me if it’s not breaking news.  Am I the only geek who noticed that Home Depot’s slogan, “You can do it. We can help,” was long ago a slogan for Diet Pepsi?  And am I the only one who can still sing the Diet Pepsi jingle that used the slogan?  I can’t find musical evidence online, but here’s a UK quiz  showing how weak the slogan is there.

Lame name, unappealing concept

Meet Kraft’s new Bagel-fuls


Completely lame name, and from a trademark perspective it’s always risky to have a plural trademark that you’re compelled to use in the singular.  But that’s not important now.  Rather, let me thrill you with Kraft’s own description of why the hell anyone would want cream-cheese stuffed bagel tubes: “Bagel-fuls are one example of how we are reframing our categories. Part of this strategy includes making our products more relevant by understanding key consumer trends, like quick meals – and their impact on our business.”  Color me ignorant, I just thought food was there to sustain and nourish you.  Don’t get me wrong;  I confess to buying some packaged and portion-controlled foods for convenience’s sake along with the rest of America.  But somehow a food item that either appears to have had its genesis in a focus group or an inside joke or dare is just not that appealing to me.  And the visual of a woman delightedly consuming this decidedly non-bagel shaped product while another woman looks on with envy?  Yeah, I figured that one out too.  Suffice to say, when my husband and I saw this commercial our visceral response was “Ewwwwwwwwww.”  Your mileage may vary.

Is it hot or is it me?

Well, I’m not the only one to see that P&G’s new ad campaign for Secret has a lot going for it: “Because you’re hot” is one of the best double entendre taglines I’ve seen in advertising lately.  And “Flawless” is an outstanding mark, though I would caution the admakers against weakening it by using it in copy (e.g., “5 new facets of flawless performance.”)  And although the Secret website is clearly focusing on the younger market, I think it may be the older ones among us who get the bigger chuckle out of “because you’re hot.”  I know I do . . .

When the work is done for me

The commenters on this Jezebel post about Kate Moss’s new perfume Velvet Hour really say it all – except for the fact that it appears that an ill-advised layout can sabotage the impact of a good mark. 

Suggesting flatulence?  Not really the best idea for a fragrance ad.

Sublime and Ridiculous in One Convenient Location!!!!!!

Pedicure time!  And you know that means a hefty dose of magazines.  Hit the jackpot today reading Marie-Claire (not nearly as good as the original French magazine, but fine for my purposes) where I learned about Ralph Lauren’s new fragrance, Notorious.


Evocative, sexy, brooding – just the right kind of name for a perfume.  And then, while researching Notorious, I found he’s also got one out called Pure Turquoise, which, IMHO is pure genius.  But then I learned more.

Here’s the deal.  I don’t for a moment begrudge Mr. Lifshitz’s having changed his surname.  I think “Lauren” balances out Ralph nicely, and the full name has obviously acquired tremendous cachet.  Certainly naming a perfume “Lauren” was a no-brainer.  But “Ralph” alone?  Sorry, not the equivalent of “Lauren.”  This is one case where the whole is definitely greater than the sum of its parts.  I’m at a loss to understand how a name that is slang for “vomit” can form the anchor of a line of perfume marks.  Yes, there’s not only Ralph, Ralph Hot and Ralph Wild, there’s also Ralph Rocks.                                                                                           

I’m all over vanity marks in the perfume biz – I see nothing wrong, for example, with Michael Kors naming his fragrance line Michael.  (A scent l can actually wear without succumbing to migraine, in fact.)  But that’s Michael, and not Ralph.  My guess here is that the Ralph Lauren brand has such cachet and draw for the young adult market that the slang meaning is irrelevant to the purchasing decision.  I can just envision that unfortunate conversation though:

    A:    What’s that perfume you’re wearing?
    B:    Ralph.  
    A:    That makes sense.
    B:    Why?
    A:    Because that’s what it makes me want to do. 

UPDATE: In discussing this post with my brother-in-law Paul, aka the Funniest Uncle on the Planet, we came to the horrifying realization that Ralph Rocks would be a great name for a brand of petrified vomit . . . that is, if such product existed.

Fun fact: A family friend almost married the then-Mr. Lifshitz.  Her parents discouraged her, however, as he was in the shmatte business and they thought he wouldn’t amount to anything.  Oh well.


Former NFL quarterback Drew Bledsoe . . . wait, did anyone ever think I’d begin a post with such words?  Well, never say never.  Bledsoe, now retired from football, has gone on to literally greener pastures, recently opening Doubleback Winery in Walla Walla.  I wish the winery great success, and commend them for selecting a terrific name – one that is evocative of both Bledsoe’s career and his return to his hometown.


H/T Catie at Through the Walla Walla Grape Vine.

Brevity: Not Just the Soul of Wit

I’ve recently noticed several businesses in our area that all seem to follow a similar naming convention: A single word name that’s suggestive of an element of the underlying business but not technically descriptive.  Here are my sightings: Sauce, a pizza/pasta joint (registered);  Splitz, a bowling center (registered);  and Squeeze, a smoothie bar (also registered).  (Full disclosure: I have eaten at Sauce and will definitely return!)

I like these names a lot, yet wondered whether the PTO had found any of them descriptive of the services.  A quick check of TDR for all of the marks indicated that all went straight through without objection.  That surprised me, because I cannot begin to count the times I’ve had to argue to the PTO that a particular term is not immediately descriptive of the goods or services at issue, but rather descriptive of some elemental function or feature of the product or service, consequently not descriptive to the consumer – and thus suggestive and registrable.  Sometimes I win, sometimes I get stuck with the Supplemental Register.  (Sometimes I even lose, but can’t bear to link to one of those.)  In any event, the fact that these three marks above were all registered without a hurdle reminds me again what a crapshoot the PTO game is. 

Meanwhile, bravo to these marks’ creators.

Updated: Duh.  I forgot about two local notables in this realm: Chipotle (now nationwide, got its start in Denver in 1993) and Garbanzo.  I am trying to provide sufficient substantiation so that I am not called out for a “bogus trend story.”